Everybody loves Jarvis
Moved to OLB during camp, Jones has shocked QBs and pleased everyone else
ATHENS, Ga. -- Jarvis Jones has been on the radar for NFL draft analysts for weeks, but his answer has always been emphatic when the subject of an early departure arose.
The draft-eligible redshirt sophomore does not intend to leave Georgia yet.
Even if Jones has produced an eye-popping 13.5 sacks -- half a sack behind David Pollack's single-season school record -- in his first season as a pass rusher under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, he said he is not ready for the NFL.
"I feel like I've still got a lot of things to work on," Jones said after last weekend's loss to LSU in the SEC championship game. "It's my first year playing for my coach. I love the guys. If all the guys are coming back, why not come back? Why break up a happy home?"
NFL scouts are not the only observers to take notice of Jones' breakout season. Now that the regular season has concluded, individual honors are beginning to pour in for Jones, who transferred from USC last year.
“The Butkus Award finalist was one of four unanimous selections -- along with Heisman Trophy finalists Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu and Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones -- to The Associated Press All-SEC team.
I knew he had it in him, but I didn't know he was going to be this type of player.” -- Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, on Jarvis Jones (above)
The American Football Coaches Association on Monday selected him as a member of its All-America team. The SEC coaches also selected Jones as a first-team all-conference honoree. Additional awards are sure to come as other organizations release their All-America rosters.
The honors are hardly surprising. This season Jones has been everybody's All-American -- as well as the choice of many of his teammates when they're asked who has been Georgia's most impactful player.
"It would have to be Jarvis Jones," senior kicker Blair Walsh said. "The way he has played on the field and the way he has carried himself on and off the field, he has been a real exemplary leader for us. That fact that he is able to perform week in and week out for us and do what he does and dominate the other teams' offensive players is just real impressive, and I haven't seen it since I have been here."
Jones was one of the nation's most coveted linebacker recruits when he signed with USC in 2009. He excelled as an inside linebacker on Georgia's scout team last fall after transferring to join the Bulldogs.
The surprising part of Jones' season is that he had never previously played outside linebacker or served as a primary pass rusher in his football career.
"I knew he had it in him, but I didn't know he was going to be this type of player," Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said. "I always thought he would be a great inside linebacker because he came out of high school playing inside, but I didn't know he'd have this impact on the defense playing outside."
Grantham identified Jones' potential for the position, however, and excitedly shifted him outside before spring practice.
It didn't take the Bulldogs long to discover they had a star in the making, as Jones was one of the standouts of preseason camp and quickly showed fans what he could do, collecting 11 tackles in the opener against Boise State.
Jones actually went the first three games without registering a sack, but once he broke through against Ole Miss he began to regularly haunt opposing quarterbacks.
Nobody suffered a more unpleasant nightmare than Florida's hobbled quarterback John Brantley, who had nowhere to go but down when Jones tore around the end four times and forced Brantley onto EverBank Field's turf during the annual rivalry game Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, Fla.
That was the beginning of a stretch in which Jones tallied 9.5 sacks in five games, proving that Grantham's offseason hunch about his pass-rushing potential was spot-on.
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When asked after the LSU game about his inevitable All-America attention, Jones reverted to elements of his standing response when asked about the NFL. He still has work to do -- the Bulldogs face Michigan State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 -- and he wants to finish his banner season in style.
"I had a great season, thanks to my teammates and coaches. It's definitely a blessing," Jones said. "There's a lot of things I've got to improve on, a lot of things I need to work on. The season ain't over. We've still got a game to play. We've still got to stay focused and just keep getting better."
Considering the impact Jones made in his first season playing a new position, it is only natural to wonder how much better he can get.
Jarvis Jones is one of many Georgia players who has already gained postseason recognition. Here is a rundown of the Bulldogs' honorees:
* American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America Team: TE Orson Charles, LB Jarvis Jones
* Associated Press SEC Freshman of the Year: RB Isaiah Crowell
* Associated Press All-SEC First Team: LB Jarvis Jones (unanimous), TE Orson Charles, S Bacarri Rambo, OL Cordy Glenn
* Associated Press All-SEC Second Team: QB Aaron Murray, C Ben Jones
* Associated Press All-SEC Honorable Mention: P Drew Butler
* Butkus Award Finalist: LB Jarvis Jones
* Coaches' All-SEC First Team: TE Orson Charles, LB Jarvis Jones, OL Cordy Glenn, S Bacarri Rambo
* Coaches' All-SEC Second Team: QB Aaron Murray, C Ben Jones, CB Brandon Boykin
* Coaches' All-Freshman Team: RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Malcolm Mitchell
* John Mackey Award Finalist: TE Orson Charles
* Rimington Trophy Finalist: C Ben Jones
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.